FIFA 11 Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Sep 27, 2010

FIFA Soccer 11 is the gold standard for the soccer experience in gaming. Soccer novices and footie fanatics alike should find many, many hours of enjoyment here, and this embarassment of riches is likely to remain fresh and playable well into the next year.

The Pros
  • Ridiculously deep game from top to bottom
  • Top notch presentation and gameplay mechanics
  • Impressive personality-based skillset for each player
The Cons
  • Goalkeeper Mode lacks action
  • Some teams, like Barcelona, seem unbeatable

FIFA 11 Review:

Americans know two things about soccer: first off, soccer is the most popular sport in the world outside our borders, and second, we should feel bad as a culture for not embracing it. The truth is that soccer is a mystifying beast to most Americans, who just don't see the nuance in the game and who aren't comfortable devoting raw emotion to an event that can (and often does) end in a 0-0 tie.

I say this not to insult soccer, but to praise it, at least through the lens of FIFA Soccer 11. Not only is EA's annual futbal juggernaut a visceral, exciting gaming experience, but it's so deep and just flat out fun that it might just lead Americans, once and for all, to finally figure out why so many millions of others worldwide live and breathe the sport. It's just that good.



Here's Your Man Of the Match

FIFA 11 is deep. Really, really deep. Think of a team you've heard of in the world of soccer. They're on the list of playable teams here. Now, think of a place you'd like them to play. Ditto. Play in quick matches and friendlies to match up teams that rarely play against each other, or head for league play, both online and off, and navigate a team through one of many, many league seasons. There are also ancillary national tournaments, such as England's F.A. Cup and the U.S. Open Cup, which will have you playing as some of the most venerable and well-recognized teams in the world.

EA has done a lot of work in this edition of FIFA in matching a particular player's skillset and affect on the field to what you'll see in the game, with a feature they call Personality Plus. Drogba's near-magical nose for net (and penchant for complaining to the refs, we assume) is more accurate this year as is Carlos Puyol's stubborn defense and heart. Both on and off the ball, CPU players will act and react in a manner closer to their real life counterparts than ever before. This is a welcome addition, and we look forward to EA continuing to refine this feature in years to come.

There's a new pro passing system in the game which determines the accuracy of a player's passing through their proficiency on the control pad, tweaked for situations and individual players. As always, you are able to bust out a pretty sick arsenal of moves, whether it be a swerve pass or a bicycle kick, depending on your skill level. Improved in this edition of FIFA is the cross, which is now more effective than ever before, allowing you to drop the ball in front of the net for better variety in attacking the goal.

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It's A Beautiful Day Out Here On The Pitch...

The presentation of FIFA Soccer 11 is really good, with warhorse commentators Andy Gray and Martin Tyler making a return. The depth of the commentary is really impressive, and the pain of hearing some of the same soundbites over again is mitigated by long, personalized stories about players and teams that make it feel like you're really watching a soccer match.

Another addition to this year's FIFA is the ability to assign customized chants and songs for every team in every league. The mechanics of doing it are a little wonky, but the result is ultimately satisfying. There's nothing like watching the L.A. Galaxy take the pitch to Tom Jones's 'Delilah,' that I can tell you. Apologies to Stoke City fans who probably just threw up in their mouths a little bit.

Also, it should be noted that in the entire stable of EA games, FIFA has the best soundtrack, bar none. Perhaps it's the fact that soccer is a world sport, but it's refreshing to get music from bands like Scissor Sisters and Yeasayer, as opposed to whatever warmed-over nu-metal they could dig up.



Let's Make A Career Of This!

There's a lot in the way of customization to be had in FIFA Soccer 11. Design a player, make and manage a team, insert songs and chants, design kits, create tournaments, what have you. If you have a dream scenario you've always wanted to play out, soccer-wise, there's a really good chance you're going to be able to make it happen here.

You can also show off to your friends and enemies online, whether it be by way of connected leaderboards that allow you to show the world how good you are, or FIFA Theatre, which allows you to save and upload particularly good goals and highlights from any match, including online, for the world to see.

Career Mode has long been a staple of FIFA, but this year you can play a career as a goalkeeper, holding it down in the net. Now, while this is a novel and fun thing to do, the truth of the matter is that the life of a goalie is a solitary one, and, unless you're being peppered with shots, you might spend the majority of the match just standing in goal, watching the very small action happen far away from you. This is not necessarily a failing of the game, but it's more a novelty than anything else.

Online play hasn't seen much in the way of change, but that's not necessarily bad, since FIFA is EA's gold standard when it comes to online leagues and co-op and multiplayer, and is the basis of all the online improvements they make to their other games. (Note: If you go online and play Head-to-Head against someone from Europe, and they play as Barcelona, you will not win.)



It's The Golden Goal!

FIFA Soccer 11 is the gold standard for the soccer experience in gaming. It's rare that you'll find a game that's this deep, this entertaining, this customizable, and just flat out fun, to boot. EA knows when it's time to innovate, and when it's time to refine, and this year's edition of the game is all about refinement, but, when the raw material is this good, it's all gravy.

Soccer novices and footie fanatics alike should find many, many hours of enjoyment here, and this embarassment of riches is likely to remain fresh and playable well into the next year.